Khade looks to create a big splash in Jakarta

Khade looks to create a big splash in Jakarta

Virdhawal Khade obliges his young fans in Bengaluru. DH photo/ B K Janardhan

Beating an Olympic gold medallist is no mean feat but emerging from the difficulty of injuries while balancing a full-time job just makes the accomplishment all the more special.

With a drop in form and plagued by niggles, Virdhawal Khade missed two Olympics, a Commonwealth Games and an Asian Games in the process and it looked more likely that in terms of a career, the only thing he could do was continue as a tehsildar in rural Maharashtra.

But life has come a full circle for India's youngest swimmer to qualify for the Olympics (2008) as he blazed the pool at the Singapore National Swimming Championship, clocking 50.26 in the 100m freestyle event, beating Rio Olympics 100m butterfly winner Joseph Schooling.

“It wasn't my best time but it's the closest I have got to my best (49.47 seconds at the 2008 Olympics) in about six or seven years so that's a boost for me. Since I moved to Mumbai in 2012, I haven't really been able to train consistently as I need to balance my job as well. But in the last six months I have worked really hard and am glad that it's paying off,” said Khade on the sidelines of a Speedo event.

“The focus wasn't to beat just Schooling. I was determined to win the event and not really bothered about who I was racing against. So I think I just did all the things right and swam better than he did on the day. He's definitely going to be at the Asian Games and is a tough competitor, but if I can do the same things, I think I can come back with a medal from the Games,” he added.

The Indian swimming contingent for the Asiad, beginning in Jakarta on August 18, will have a mix of youth and experience, also featuring the likes of Sandeep Sejwal, Sajan Prakash and teen sensation Srihari Nataraj.

Confident that he will be able to swim faster at the quadrennial event, Khade will participate in the 50-metre, 100-metre freestyle events and the 50-metre butterfly, where he could come up against his compatriot Sajan.

“I am confident of upping my speed but like any other sport there are a lot of things that we cannot predict. On my part, I have done whatever I could to improve and if it is my day, I know I can definitely swim faster. I am ready for the challenge. There are just 20 days left for the Games and there isn't too much you can do now apart from keeping your focus and avoiding pressure," he said.

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